Divorce is a notoriously difficult and painful process. There are many people in unhappy and even damaging marriages who stay far too long, simply because they want to avoid additional conflict and animosity. It is this well-deserved reputation that spurred the creation of collaborative divorce, a new legal process designed to eliminate the worst elements of divorce and focusing instead on the emotional and familial needs of all involved.
Collaborative divorce and collaborative law adopts an entirely different approach compared to the traditional adversarial process. Both parties come to the table represented by specially-trained attorneys, who in turn invite other related professionals to bring their expertise and advocacy into the conversation. The conversation has a neutral tone, with all those involved predisposed to listening and respecting concerns and finding creative solutions that take everybody’s priorities into account. The end result is an agreement that focuses on providing all parties with a sense of control and parity. It provides a framework for restructuring the family unit while maintaining what is most important to preserve.
Once the decision to end a marriage is made, most divorces represent a series of painful decisions that follow.
- Where will the children live?
- How will marital assets be divided?
- What level of support will need to be provided?
When a divorcing couple agrees to a collaborative divorce process, these decisions are made in a non-adversarial way that invites input from an interdisciplinary team that may include mental health professionals, counselors, and financial advisors in addition to the attorneys representing each spouse. The approach is particularly helpful in situations where there are children involve, as it acknowledges that even after the marriage is over, the family that was created within the marriage continues.
Collaborative divorce bypasses the conflict that is typical when a marriage dissolves, and instead relies heavily upon communication and cooperation. Each party can express what they need and what they want in an environment that is open to hearing and responding. They can advocate for themselves while also acknowledging the needs of their spouse, and at the same time both are certain to prioritize the emotional needs of the children – all while avoiding the costs and divisiveness of the courtroom.